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October 2019 E-Newsletter 


This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them.

Information includes political issues, important research, legal developments, and information based on our experiences that we hope will help you personally in your individual and professional efforts.   It also provides updates and news about our firm and its activities.  We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions.  
                                                                   -Matt Cohen

U.S. Education Department issues guidance on transition services

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has issued a memo that provides some much needed clarity and guidance on how state and local agencies can coordinate transition services for students. The memo addresses:
  • The opportunity for high school students with disabilities to enroll in postsecondary education programs.
  • The opportunity for students and youth with disabilities to enroll in comprehensive transition and other postsecondary programs after leaving high school.
  • Coordination of transition-related services that students with disabilities may receive under the IDEA and under the Vocational Rehabilitation program.
  • Financial aid available to students with disabilities enrolled in comprehensive transition and postsecondary education programs.


Victory: DeVos appeal of federal IDEA rules dropped
The U.S. Department of Education's appeal of federal regulations designed to protect students of color with disabilities from harsh disciplinary practices and over- and under-identification has been dismissed. 

Lawyers for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), of which Matt Cohen is a board member, hailed the decision by the U.S. Justice Department as a victory for children with disabilities nationwide. READ MORE

Good news: Autism CARES Act headed to president

Since 2006, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research And Support Act (Autism CARES) has dedicated over $3 billion to programs that study autism and provide programs for those with the disability. 

The law was set to expire at the end of September, but a last minute vote in the U.S. Senate has sent the bill to President Donald Trump. If signed, the measure will pump another $1.8 billion into efforts to address the needs of people with autism through 2024. READ MORE

New research points to benefits of inclusion for students with disabilities

The benefits of inclusion in a general education setting have been acknowledged for years. IDEA itself, the watershed law giving protection to students with disabilities, acknowledges the advantages of access to a general education curriculum. Now seven new quantitative research studies have reconfirmed them.
In fact, the author of this piece says there are no quantitative research studies that show advantages for students with intellectual disabilities in separate settings. Check the research out for yourself. It may come in handy at your next IEP meeting. READ MORE

When trauma-informed schools need to look in the mirror

Trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive schools are spreading across the nation, offering programs and instruction sensitive to students who have experienced trauma. But, no matter how well-intentioned, educators and schools need to take a close look at policies and instructional methods that can actually retraumatize students. And programs that don't consider structural racism and other forms of bias as a form of "trauma" are doing students a disservice. READ MORE

Schools failing to find and maintain faculty of color proportionate to the student population

Just over 82 percent of special education teachers in public schools are white at the same time federal data shows only about half of the students receiving special ed services are white. That mismatch is alarming because decades of research shows diversity in the classroom matters. READ MORE
Let's stop calling it a teacher shortage

This is an excellent analysis of the so-called teacher shortage. The author raises an important point, "If I can't by a Porsche for $1.98 does that mean there's an automobile shortage?" Of course not.
But when it comes to teachers, lawmakers and policy makers act as if the problem is a lack of men and women to do the job. The real problem is the subpar pay and, just as important, poor working conditions teachers face in many schools in many parts of the country. We need to stop calling it a shortage and start making the profession attractive to new and experienced teachers alike. READ MORE
Lake County freezes special ed enrollment in wake of its own "teacher shortage"

The Special Education District of Lake County, a cooperative that provides programming for 31 Lake County school districts, is temporarily freezing enrollment in the wake of a staff shortage administrators and teachers say is putting students and staff at risk. As of Sept. 10, the district had 108 open positions and it says it will stop taking new students until at least 90 percent of staff positions are filled.
That might be difficult. The district is advertising starting salaries for para-professionals of between $14.75 - $15.30 an hour and up to just $18.22 an hour for staff with a BA or BS. That may sound attractive, but it's an annual salary of roughly $28,000 to $35,000 and comes at a time when COSTCO offers a starting salary of $15 an hour, with benefits. Aren't the staff caring for and assisting special needs children worth more than that. We won't solve this "shortage" until we start valuing the work of critical school staff. READ MORE .

Texas students still waiting for services in wake of federal takeover of special education program

It's been three years since the federal government ordered a special education overhaul in Texas that impacted 250,000 students and cost the state $277 million in fines. But students are still not getting the services they need and likely won't for several more years.
This story sounds eerily familiar to the state of Illinois' takeover of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) special ed program. Both were prompted by a media investigation that revealed directives to slash services in order to save money. Right now, an estimated quarter million Texas students with disabilities are awaiting basic services from their schools. READ MORE

Parents forced to battle CPS over therapeutic day school

CPS continues to find new and different ways to harm special needs children and their families, as the Sun-Times documented in September. The latest shell game CPS plays goes like this: a child is progressing in specific therapeutic school, therefore doesn't need to remain there and can go to a school where transportation is cheaper, even though changing schools will short circuit the child's progress; students can be placed in schools that fit their needs, but CPS will only provide transportation if there is an existing route; they set up special contracts with a limited number of schools to get a preferred rate and save money.
After parents and advocates attack the policy because it means placements are driven by cost, not what the kids need, CPS announces it has changed the policy and will place based on what the kid needs and not based on a preferred provider contract. But the district then operationally re-activates the policy by requiring that there be an existing viable bus route to the school or they won't provide transportation.
Of course, the existing bus routes are predominantly to the schools that previously had the preferred relationship. They defend this on the grounds that the parent still has the option to go to the appropriate school as long as they provide for the transportation themselves (sometimes involving travel times of 45-60 minutes or more each way). READ MORE

Honoring disability rights hero Marca Bristo

All of us in the disability rights movement are saddened by the loss of Access Living's president and founder Marca Bristo, who died in September.  Brisco was a visionary leader and hero to many of us. 

She fought for people with disabilities to have equal rights and an equal chance to succeed in the world. She led the fight for accessibility in public transit and housing and helped write the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Like many true activists, friends say she was undaunted by the word "No." READ MORE
Has your child received all of their special ed services? Free information sessions available for CPS parents

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) found that Chicago Public Schools violated the law by denying or delaying special education services to thousands of  students. 

If this happened to your child, you might be able to get extra services or supports. If your child did not receive or had certain services delayed during the 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 school year, they could be eligible for Student Specific  Corrective Action (SSCA). 

To find out more, parents are invited to attend free information sessions and get free legal advice. READ MORE

In the news...

CPS is apparently filtering parent emails but the district won't say how or why. One parent wonders if it's because of her outspoken criticism of the district.

Another excellent WBEZ report shows that Chicago's magnet and selective enrollment schools are not meeting desegregation goals despite spending millions on busing and extra funding for the programs.
In the wake of CPS' failure to protect students from sexual assault--and the eventual cover up of the scandal--the federal government is stepping in to see that the district enacts protections for students.

Recent Firm Successes
  • Secured placement in private therapeutic day school for 11-year-old with autism, ADHD, and severe anxiety.
  • Secured two-year protective order for young man who was sexually assaulted by a classmate. 
  • Obtained medical withdrawal and tuition reimbursement for college student who needed to leave school for a semester after school inappropriately banned the student's service animal from the dormitory.  
  • Supported family to successfully advocate for proactive coordination between private reading providers and school personnel. 
Upcoming presentations
CPS Student Specific Corrective Action -
How to file a complaint with ISBE
Matt Cohen
Austin Childcare Providers Network
Saturday, Oct. 19
10 a.m. - noon
5417 W. Division, Chicago

Inservice Training on Mental Health and Confidentiality Law
Friday, Nov. 1
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Matt Cohen
Metropolitan Family Services

Know Your Rights: Getting What Your Child Needs from the Special
Education System
Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs 
Sponsor: Easter Seals of Rockford and the Autism Program of Illinois
Saturday, Nov. 2 
10 a.m.  - 1 p.m.
1601 Parkview Ave., Rockford

Panel Discussion on Issues for Twice Exceptional Children
Sun. Dec. 15, noon - 1 p.m.
Matt Cohen
Midwest Academy for Gifted Education
1164 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago 

The Role and Power of Independent Evaluations: How to critically evaluate and use IEEs to secure appropriate placements and services
Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs
COPAA  22nd Annual Meeting
March 5 - 8, 2020
Baltimore Hilton Inner Harbor
401 W. Pratt, Baltimore
To Register or for more conference information:
Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • IEPs and 504 Plans - Navigating the Maze
  • Tips for Obtaining Accommodations for the ACT, SAT and other Placement Exams
  • Obtaining an Independent Educational Evaluation
  • Tips for Obtaining Appropriate Services for Your Child With Autism
  • Classroom Observation
To request multiple copies for your clients, 
please call us at 866-787-9270.   
Matt Cohen is the founder of the Chicago law firm Matt Cohen & Associates LLC.  

The practice is concentrated in representation of children and families in special education and discipline disputes with public schools, di sability rights advocacy, including advocacy for accommodations in admissions and licensing tests and in colleges and graduate schools and legal assistance to mental health and human services professionals and the organizations they work for. 

For more information about Matt Cohen and the staff, please visit our  website.
If you have any questions, please contact his assistant, Tami Kuipers at 866-787-9270  or 

book cover

   A Guide to Special Education Advocacy -
  What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know
   written by Matt Cohen
   published in 2009


    $20 plus $4.95 shipping 

    to order, call Tami at





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